Essential California: A dark day in American history

Members of Congress run for cover as Trump-incited insurrectionists try to enter the House chamber in the Capitol.
Members of Congress run for cover as Trump-incited insurrectionists try to enter the House chamber in the U.S. Capitol.
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Jan. 7, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

What should have been a formality — a constitutionally mandated joint session of Congress to count and certify electoral votes — ended up looking a lot like an attempted coup, as violent Trump supporters laid siege to the nation’s Capitol.

A mob stormed the U.S. Capitol early Wednesday afternoon, forcing the House and Senate to abruptly stop their debate over the formal counting and announcement of electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden. As my D.C. colleagues report, it was “an extraordinary security breach spurred by President Trump’s encouragement and baseless claims of polling fraud.”

[Read the story: “Pro-Trump mob breaches the U.S. Capitol, forces lawmakers to flee” in the Los Angeles Times]


In keeping with the prevailing themes of our era, the siege that followed was both tragic and absurd.

On one of the darkest days in American history, panicked lawmakers pulled gas masks from under their chairs and evacuated to safety through tunnels. Insurrectionists posed for selfies as they desecrated the hallowed building. A shirtless QAnon supporter wearing fur-covered Viking horns flexed his biceps on the Senate dais.

After the most significant breach of the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812, an extremist in a “Trump” pompom hat waved and grinned as he carried Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s looted lectern through the Capitol rotunda.

In a gut-wrenching first-person piece, Times congressional reporter Sarah D. Wire described lawmakers crying and praying in a barricaded room. After asking about Sarah’s baby at home, a congresswoman from Pomona snapped Sarah’s photo and uploaded it to Twitter, tagging @latimes so we would see it and know she was OK.

Soon after, Capitol police wrenched open the gallery doors to ferry the group to a secure location.

As my D.C. colleagues Eli Stokols and Janet Hook write, the televised coverage of thousands of pro-Trump insurrectionists storming the Capitol “was a breathtaking demonstration of what Trump has wrought — a mob as heedless of law and norms as he has been, willing to literally trash the fundamental institutions of American democracy.”


[Read the story: “Long warned against inciting violence, Trump does so with supporters’ Capitol siege” in the Los Angeles Times]

President Trump, who last year condemned Black Lives Matter demonstrators as “thugs” and signed an executive order endorsing prison sentences for protesters who damage federal property, uploaded a one-minute video to Twitter addressing the violent extremists.

“We love you. You’re very special,” the president of the United States told the people attacking the seat of our 244-year-old democracy. He did also suggest they “go home,” but only after repeating the baseless claims of election fraud that helped incite the violence at hand.

[Read more: “Twitter, Facebook lock down Trump after social media-fueled riot in D.C.” in the Los Angeles Times]

Four people were killed — a woman who was shot by U.S. Capitol Police and three others who died in “medical emergencies,” D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee told the Associated Press.

The attack brought the congressional proceedings to a halt for hours. The debate resumed in the evening, with some senators who had planned to object to Biden’s electors saying that the attack on the Capitol had caused them to change their minds.


The proceedings continued well into Thursday morning, with Congress finally confirming the electoral college vote about 3:40 a.m. Washington time. President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Meanwhile, we remain in the deadly peak of a once-in-a-century pandemic. Coronavirus infections in California surpassed 2.5 million Wednesday, another alarming milestone that underscores an unprecedented surge that has overwhelmed hospitals and is expected to worsen in the coming weeks.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes $600 payments to Californians in need and extending COVID-19 eviction moratorium: With a state law protecting California tenants from pandemic-related evictions expiring at the end of this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed Wednesday to extend the protections and expedite distribution of $2.6 billion in federal rental assistance for low-income tenants. Newsom said the budget he was releasing Friday would include the rental assistance money and a $600 state stimulus check to low-income residents. Los Angeles Times

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L.A. officials allowed dozens without medical credentials to get COVID-19 vaccines early. But by Tuesday, officials appeared to have closed that loophole, requiring a photo ID and documentation of a job in the healthcare industry in order to receive a dose of the vaccine. Los Angeles Times


Nipsey Hussle helped to save this L.A. skating rink. Now its future is uncertain. Los Angeles Times

Skaters pack the rink at World On Wheels in 2017.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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Democrats take Senate control: Jon Ossoff was declared the winner of a runoff election in Georgia against Republican David Perdue on Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

Merrick Garland, Obama’s blocked Supreme Court nominee, to be Biden’s attorney general nominee. Garland, a federal appeals court judge, served as a top Justice Department official in the Clinton administration in the 1990s. Los Angeles Times

California GOP legislative leader tweeted, then deleted false claim of antifa leading U.S. Capitol mob: A spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus said state Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) deleted the original tweet after realizing it was “incomplete.” Los Angeles Times


The Fresno Bee editorial board does not think Rep. Devin Nunes deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Per the editorial, the Central Valley congressman “has actually harmed the nation by fueling the bitter partisan divide that has splintered America’s political system.” Fresno Bee


Some California superintendents say Newsom’s classroom reopening plan falls short: Superintendents of seven of California’s largest school districts said Wednesday that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to reopen local campuses fails to set a clear statewide standard for judging COVID-19 conditions and seeks to use taxpayer funds that would otherwise go toward existing education programs. Los Angeles Times


How big was San Francisco’s pandemic exodus? Look at U-Haul traffic. San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco’s top art school says its future hinges on a Diego Rivera mural. Many faculty members and former students object to the possible sale of the $50-million mural to balance the budget. New York Times

A poem to start your Thursday: “At the End of Life, a Secret” by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Poetry Foundation

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Los Angeles: partly sunny, 72. San Diego: partly sunny, 73. San Francisco: partly sunny, 66. San Jose: partly sunny, 59. Fresno: partly sunny, 63. Sacramento: partly sunny, 55. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Barbara Spector:

My memory of growing up in Los Angeles (San Fernando Valley) were the car “rides” my father would take our family on in the early evenings of summer. The purpose: To view the latest in growth and architecture throughout the county. My favorite were the high-rise buildings going up in the late ‘50s and ‘60s on Wilshire Boulevard. We always ended these rides with an ice cream from Baskin-Robbins or sometimes a hamburger from Hamburger Hamlet. It seemed there was no end to new discoveries in my city. Hence, my ability for knowing so many neighborhoods I’ve had to navigate and guide others through. Because of the pandemic, I find myself going for rides again just to break up the monotony of being at home, and I continue to make new discoveries.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.